Enfilade 2015: the hits just keep coming.

I attended Enfilade over the Memorial Day weekend.  It was my 24th Enfilade.  I haven’t missed one yet, and I’ve had organizing responsibilities in almost all of them.  Last year I announced my retirement from the Enfilade committee and all other leadership responsibilities for NHMGS.  It was a carefully considered decision, and the right one for me. There was no animosity or rancor in my decision, and I’ve moved on.

It was a very good convention and I think the organizers did quite well.  It seemed to me there were few glitches and almost all of them were beyond their control.  If I have one suggestion it would be to try to problem solve the event sign-up dilemma. I know and understand all the problems associated with pre-registering for events, but the long 45-minute lines must be addressed. They’ve done a great job of promoting pre-registration electronically for the convention, and now it’s time to put equal or greater promotion into pre-registering for events.  It’s complicated and I get that, but this seems to me a must-do, especially as attendance hovers around the 350 mark and the lines snake through the convention hall.

Each convention is different, and this one certainly was for me.  I had to work on Friday.  That’s unusual for the day of the convention and it presented a number of problems I clearly foresaw.  It meant leaving at school about 2:30 and driving to Olympia and arriving in time to host my 7:00 event.  if you are a stranger to Washington geography, that’s about a 60-70 minute drive under normal circumstances.  Unfortunately Memorial Day weekend is far from normal.  It is the beginning of the camping season, and as the weather moderates any long weekend is a good excuse for camping.  The roads were a mess and instead of arriving at the hotel 3:30-4:00ish, it took an extra hour.  I had piles of stuff to haul in for my game, so by the time I checked in, set up my game, and caught my breath, it was game time. Something to consider for the future.

Friday night I ran my raid on Agen scenario.  It was a Lion Rampant game with seven players who had not played the rules before.  All had purchased copies of the rules and were genuinely interested in learning them to see if they liked them, which meant they were motivated to work through them.  That made life a lot easier for me. After a somewhat slow start, they were doing things pretty much on their own.  The story of the scenario is something like this: three English retinues arrive outside the village of Agen, defended by a dilapidated castle.  This is a chevauchee, meaning the English are there to loot and burn the village and carry off their goodies.  The French arrived with a three retinue relieving force-something frequently unusual for a chevauchee-and their job is to prevent the English from achieving their goals.  The last retinue was a smattering of serfs, whose job it is to offer token resistance, but most of all survive.  The French were able to inflict some damage to the English, but the invaders were pretty efficient, looting and burning many of the various buildings on the table.  But, the big winners were the serfs, who by staying away from trouble, managed to score 105 points edging out the English who amassed 104.  Most importantly, the players seemed to enjoy themselves,and especially the rules.  They were running the game themselves by the end of things.

Saturday morning I made time to actually play a game.  I have long been interested in Galactic Knights, the space epic using ships originally made by Superior Models. I own some of the ships and the rules, but only walked through a kind of quickie scenario with Dave Schueler.  The Saturday game was hosted by Scott Williams and Joe Grassman and was loosely based on the WWII Battle of Midway. I commanded the Terran star bombers, which are the rough equivalent of the Ameriacn TBD torpedo bombers slaughtered by the Japanese.  In GK they have the virtue of being faster than the Devastator death traps.  I loved the scenario and learned a lot about the rules.  I was able to be sneaky and sly, took advantage of the rules and administered the coup de gras to two thirds of the Avarian capital ships–following the advice of my colleagues.  The game inspired me to work on my collection of GK stuff-in fact I’m writing this during a break from them.

The Saturday mid-day period was all about judging games for the period’s “Best of Show” award.  Often that falls to one person, but the convention organizers did a super job of mobilizing three judges for each period.  That’s way better than I was able to do.  I actually hope to continue aiding in this because it is great fun.  The best part of serving in that role is the ability to circulate and see all the games during the period.  I actually got around to see each game three times and there were some wonderful ones.  While the 28mm Waterloo game raged on in the corner, John McEwan hosted an amazing undersea submarine game.  Max Vekich and Ed Texeira ran a very interesting hypothetical 28mm WWII Japanese invasion of Washington game I was very intrigued with. Special guest Howard Whitehouse had a very interesting Vinlander/skraeling semi RPG with miniatures game that was very cool.  But the winner was FireForce Rhodesia ’76.  This was a great looking and playing game in which the miniatures and terrain all seemed to work well.  Damond Crump, Bruce Smith and Lawrence Bateman were the big winners in that period.

Saturday evening was my big game, Smoked Bolougne.  It was another Lion Rampant game with space for eight players.  It was a mixed group of LR veterans and noobs.  The game featured an attack on Bolougne’s port at either end by a picked English force.  The goal of the English is to destroy key buildings in the town and destroy the French ships at anchor.  The English got off to a roaring start, using their flaming arrows to set fire to their targets.  The waterfront was quite ablaze, but the invaders were soon bogged down by French reinforcements and poor activation rolls. In the end they were able to achieve what the English did historically–destruction of their targets, but their forces were also destroyed.

During Sunday’s final period Dave Schueler and I hosted the Raid on St. Nazaire.  I got some credit for helping, but honestly this was Dave at his finest. Based on the raid on the French port city on the Loire River that also contained the Normandie dry dock, this was going to be a tricky show. We’d walked and talked through the way the scenario would be played, but hadn’t had a real playtest. We’d done that on other scenarios, but this was complex in the sense that the six British players had to move their 13 motor launches plus five escorts through German gunfire, land their load of commandos, and destroy important features in the the port area before re-embarking for home. Overall the game went well.  The Brits suffered two losses and several vessels damaged while engaging the port defenses. They did get some commandos ashore, damaging the one of the winding houses and the pump house for the dry dock.  But it was concluded that, like Bolougne, it was a pretty historical result.  Serious damage to the dry dock meant the Tripitz would have to find a new address, but the British attackers were pretty much trapped and would likely be killed or captured.

Picture of St. Nazaire set up courtesy of Rod Fleck. I'm the goof in the green Jaguars wind shirt.

Picture of St. Nazaire set up courtesy of Rod Fleck. I’m the goof in the green Jaguars wind shirt.

The good news is that the powers that be thought enough of our game to consider ti the best of show for the Sunday game period.  It also won the best game for the year’s theme, raids.  It was the perfect finish for the weekend.

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From heraldry to railroad ties: my gamer’s life

I’m a very project oriented gamer.  Almost everything I work on has a beginning and an end, based on its intended purpose. When Enfilade is over in May I’m almost always geared toward what I’m going to do for the next Enfilade. I’ve mentioned my Enfilade projects already, and at some time I’m sure I’ll go into depth about them.  But I’ve shifted gears away from my Lion Rampant stuff, which I really enjoy painting so something a little less interesting and exciting, painting 1/600 scale bits and pieces for a scenario based on the Raid on St. Nazaire.

For those of you who don’t know this action, it was a WWII raid on the French port of St. Nazaire which possessed a strategically important drydock built for the enormous French liner Normandie, the only one big enough on the French coast capable of servicing the German battleship Tirpitz.  The British feared the Germans would move the Tirpitz there where it could menace shipping, the British coast and control of the English Channel.  If you want to really set the Brits off, threaten control of the Channel.

On March 28, 1942 a combined force of British commandos were ferried into St. Nazaire by motor gunboats and an explosives-laden ex-American destroyer, the Campbelltown.  Their mission was to destroy the massive caissons of the dry dock as well as operating machinery and industrial targets in the dock area.  The Germans defended the port apparatus with dozens of automatic cannon and about 6,000 men. The raid succeeded in the sense that the Campbelltown detonated and destroyed the caisson while loaded with celebrating German officials, but the raiding force was largely forced into captivity and the motor gunboats and smaller vessels were mostly non-factors.

Dave and I plan to recreate the St. Nazaire raid, including the Campbelltown and supporting MGB’s, emphasizing mostly the role of the commandoes.  The players will run the British while the Germans are more or less randomly run.

Our challenge as game designers is to reproduce all the dock goodies, including buildings, railyards, teeny, tiny figures and the vessels involved.  After our last meeting, it looks like Dave and I are agreed on using rules inspired by the Raid on St. Nazaire board game published by Avalon Hill many years ago.  We’ve worked together on many projects, and I always look forward to our collaborations.  Dave is the brains of the outfit, and often takes on the bigger modeling pieces.  I usually take on more of the smaller bits. For example, when we did our Tirpitz game a couple of years ago, it was Dave who took on the battleship, while I worked the Fleet Air Arm stuff.

This game is a little different.  We’ll be trying to recreate portions of a large port city, including living areas, industrial and warehouse districts, rail lines and buildings, as well as bridges, canals, lock-gates, and, of course, the enormous dry dock caissons and the ephemera that go with them.

I wish I was an awesome scratchbuilder who could make all this stuff myself, but alas I am not.  So, I’ve been acquiring 1/600 scale buildings from a variety of sources.  One source I really like is the old Skytrex range of ships and buildings. They are all in metal, which I like a lot, but they are also spendy.  Another complication is that Skytrex folded last year and have since been acquired by Ros/Heroics.  I’ve made a couple of orders to them and found them easy to work with, but their goodies are priced in pounds and shipping is significant. I’ve included pictures of some of the items I’ve received.

Another important supplier I’m using is PicoArmor.  If it wasn’t for this project, it’s a company I would have overlooked.  Pico does a lot of work with WWII and Modern 1/600 ground and air combat.  But they also carry some wonderful buildings in that scale from Brigade games. I’ve ordered their industrial buildings and railroad bits, as well as their own 2mm (as in eeny-teeny) figures needed to play the game.

Railway buildings by Brigade Miniatures.  Eeny teeny, but oh so necessary

Railway buildings by Brigade Miniatures. Eeny teeny, but oh so necessary

Railroad tracks by Brigade.  Without question the most tedious thing I've ever painted, period the end.

Railroad tracks by Brigade. Without question the most tedious thing I’ve ever painted, period the end.

Some of the Pico buildings are really small, so Dave and I are also exploring some of the buildings made by Bay Area Yards for their ACW naval range.  I really like Bay, and I really like their buildings.  They are more substantial than the Pico structures, but there is also the question of size and scale.  They may be out of scale, but sometimes it’s important to have something larger and more detailed for our failing eyesight to look at than be just so on something so small.  I’ve included pictures of the warehouses I’ve completed to give you an idea of what they are like as well as a comparison shot with the Pico buildings. Bay casts in resin, and their buildings are nice, and quite inexpensive.  The resin poses a few problems with bubbles and such, but they’re hard to pick out when the miniature is this small.

Bay one

This is a big change from painting my beloved Hundred Years War miniatures, but I’m also very excited about this project.  I’m hoping it will be as good a game and as pretty a project as the Tirpitz affair.  When I’m ready for a bit of a change I’ll share the building of the PT Dockyard vessels awaiting construction.

So Many Projects, So Little Time

lion rampant cover

I feel pulled in at least five  directions as September wraps up.  Usually I’m pretty good at staying focused on one thing at a time but not this time.

  1. So there is a lot of interest in the SAGA rules at the present time.  David Sullivan reminded me the rules have been around for over two years, and I have yet to actually play them.  As I explained in my last post, it looks like I have enough Vikings to put together a four point “faction.”  I’ve agreed to participate in a November 29th tournament, so somehow I’ll have to get a game or two in before then.  I also have a fistful of figures to paint-about 25 or so, but they should go fairly fast. I’ve completed a five figure command set by Gripping Beast and am in the middle of painting ten archers.
  2. I’ve received the first of my pieces for the Raid on St. Nazaire.  These are mostly tiny 2mm buildings by Brigade Games though Pico Armor.  Very nice stuff. I ordered some residential buildings that would appear in St. Nazaire’s Old Town, some railroad buildings that also seem quite nice, along with some trackage.  Finally I got the industrial building set, but likely will need quite a bit more. I’ve also ordered the eight or so vessels I need from PT Dockyard.  I got a note they shipped yesterday, so they should be here soon.
  3. Last week I received the new medieval small action rules, “Lion Rampant.”  These rules are perfect for my singly mounted Hundred Years War figures. I have enough figures to create many “retinues” as both French and English. I’m trying them out on October 11th with Dave Schueler, a simple one off game prior to hosting a larger multi-player game two weeks later.  The rules seem simple and fun with lots of die rolling and death.  They have the virtue of being cheap without a bunch of add-ons a la SAGA, and honestly they just fit my interests a bit better.
  4. I’ve finally dragged out and assembled all my 40mm Three Musketeers figures from the “And One For All” range by Eureka Miniatures.  I’ve primed them and slapped some flesh paint on faces.  I’ve also purchased additional figures for the period from Chris Hughes excellent ECW range at Sash and Saber.  I’m quite thrilled to get them.  This is for a role-playing game I’ve offered to run, and I’m looking forward to painting the magnificent figures and drawing up the scenarios. Will probably use a combination of GDW’s old “En Garde” rules and Ganesha Games’ “Flashing Blades,” with liberal input from Alexandre Dumas (pere), films by Richard Lester, and maybe a little contribution from the “Musketeers” series on BBC America.
  5. I’ve said no new projects for the last couple of years, and I’ve pretty much stuck to that pledge.  But I am looking at something new and that is 28mm Aztecs and Conquistadors.  I actually have boxes and boxes of 1/72 scale Revell plastics, but they are missing a few key items that I can’t seem to duplicate in 20mm.  Eureka has a gorgeous range for both that is quite complete.  I don’t envision anything gargantuan-probably 200-225 miniatures.  There is a Sword and the Flame version for this period, though I can still see some simplifying too. I’ve ordered a sample pack for each side and they are quite nice.

Lots going on, and lots to do, but it all seems pretty fun.

The year’s big project

Enfilade made it official last week and announced the theme for the 2015 convention.  It will be Raids.  Not really much of a raids person, though I could imagine a few raids that might be worth gaming.  I’ve painted some figures for raiding the frontier during the American Revolution.  Maybe, we’ll see.

Actually I’m fibbing.  Daveshoe and I have long discussed the possibility of gaming the St. Nazaire Raid of 1942. This raid was carried out against the Normandie docks, the only one on the Atlantic coast capable of hosting the German battleship Tirpitz.  In a daring land/sea expedition elements of the Royal Commandoes and Royal Navy destroyed the docks and important infrastructure in St. Nazaire’s maritime/industrial region. Unlike lots of games, there aren’t a couple hundred 28mm figures that will need to be painted.  Instead, we’ll be modeling the game table for a 1/600 scale coastal action.  I have many of the British gunboats already built and painted, but I have eight more to go.  There will buildings galore to paint, felt game space to construct and etc., etc., I’ll keep you posted on the project as we proceed.

I’m currently painting my Fife and Drum British Guards from the American Revolution.  These are exquisite 28mm figures, with just the right amount of detail.  They were sculpted to model troops for the 1777 campaign.  Though their coats are a bit long, they’ll do for Guilford Courthouse as well.  They are very nice, but a little on the small side. Smaller than Perry’s 28mm AWI, and even a little smaller than Old Glory figures.  I’m working on a 24 figure unit and making steady progress.  I hope to have them finished by the end of the week.

What then?  I have fourteen singly mounted militia and civilians I want to paint for the AWI frontier scenarios I mentioned earlier. These are all Perry figures that I expect to paint up very quickly.  They’re nice figures, a good variety of men, women and children.

I proposed to do some role playing with my son and friend David, and promised to take on the role of game master.  I asked Casey what kind of role playing he would most be interested in, and he thought it would be fun to do some swashbuckling along the lines of the Three Musketeers.  I thought that was a great idea because it gives me an excuse to pull out my Eureka 40mm And All For One figures.  They are unpainted, but I think they’ll take the next place in the painting queue.  I’ve been re-watching my copy of the Richard Lester stories (The Three Musketeers (1973) and The Four Musketeers (1974) are by far the best versions of the Dumas story; don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.) I’ve also checked out the BBCAmerica The Musketeers series for story ideas and I’m anxious to get started.  I’m likely to use Fudge as the rules set but am consulting the ancient GDW EnGarde rules as well as Ganesha Games Flashing Blades for ideas as well.  I have the original nine figure set Eureka issued a while back, and I’ve ordered a couple more of the assassin type figures, and I’m looking out for where I might be able to pick up a few more additional figure types for the era.

Finally, there’s been an increasing amount of talk about the SAGA rules for some quickly small action gaming.  I have 25 painted Vikings and was pawing through my piles of unpainted lead hoping to find a few more.  Indeed I discovered another 20+ miniatures which I want to paint.  That way I can join the cool crowd too.  I would guess I’ll work on these while I’m painting my Musketeers.

In any case I’ve got lots on my plate to keep me busy.  I can assure you I’ll do my very best to make it a good time.